Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal met for the first time in the 2006 Roland Garros quarter-final, with the Serb retiring after the second set. In the following 14 months, two great youngsters had faced 12 more times, with Nadal scoring nine victories and losing to Djokovic at all four outdoor Masters 1000 events on hard! Novak earned his first victory over Rafa in Miami 2007, with another coming in Montreal the following summer. In 208, the Serb bested the Spaniard in Indian Wells and repeated that in Cincinnati in August. Nadal was a player to beat since that spring, winning five tournaments in a row and securing to take the ATP throne from Roger Federer on August 18!
After an early exit in Rome in May, Nadal had won titles in Hamburg, Roland Garros, Queen’s, Wimbledon and Toronto before reaching the semis in Cincinnati, entering Novak Djokovic clash with a career-best streak of 32 victories! The Serb was ready to challenge the Spaniard, feeling confident in his abilities on the favorite surface and toppling Rafa 6-1, 7-5 in an hour and 26 minutes for his sixth Masters 1000 final. Djokovic lost 15 points in ten service games and defended the only break chance to keep the pressure on the other side. Powerless in the opening set, Rafa started to play better in the second set and stayed in touch until 5-5 before losing serve to propel Novak into the final and suffer the first loss in three months.
Novak Djokovic felt confident ahead of Rafael Nadal clash in Cincinnati 2008.
“I served much better than in the previous two matches, which is very important heading into the latter stages. I had to calm Gulbis’ strokes down and wait for my chances, which I did. My next rival is Rafael Nadal, and he gives 100% on any surface against any rival. There’s a lot at stake for him, trying to become world no. 1 for the first time. He is a great competitor, and he would not stop even if he achieved that. I have much respect for him. “He is very confident after not losing a match for a couple of months, proving he can play well on all three surfaces. It will not be easy to beat him tomorrow, but I accept the challenge. Unlike clay, hard courts are a bit more difficult for him because of the movement; you can not slide that much, and the ball bounces differently. He is very motivated, but I will try to use the fast court and impose my strokes,” Novak Djokovic said.